Hardware Engineer Vs. Electrical Engineer

This article looks at the work of computer hardware engineers and electrical engineers. It identifies similar tasks and training requirements while highlighting the different focus of these professionals.

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Comparing Hardware Engineers to Electrical Engineers

Hardware engineers are also known as computer hardware engineers. While they share some superficially similar tasks with electrical engineers, hardware engineers specifically focus on computer components and related products; electrical engineers produce a wide range of equipment that operates on electricity or produces electricity.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Hardware Engineers Bachelor's degree $115,080 (Computer Hardware Engineers) 5% (Computer Hardware Engineers)
Electrical Engineers Bachelor's degree $94,210 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Hardware Engineers vs. Electrical Engineers

Hardware engineers and electrical engineers may both be involved in creating products. Their duties can include making design specifications, evaluating how effective their design plans are, modifying the design and then monitoring the manufacturing process. Hardware engineers and electrical engineers may also be involved with assessing current products and determining how to improve their design so that they can correct problems or improve the product's performance. One of the key differences between these professionals is that hardware engineers work exclusively with computers and computer components while electrical engineers may work on producing electricity or other types of equipment that use electricity, such as electric motors. Since hardware engineers concentrate on working with computers and computer systems they may also work on ways to upgrade equipment so that it's compatible with new software. Hardware engineers also produce detailed information about how equipment is manufactured and how it works.

Hardware Engineers

Hardware engineers specialize in working with the components of computers so they may opt to study computer engineering or electrical engineering. They can consider pursuing advancement to a role as a computer and information systems manager, but it's common for employers to expect these managers to have a master's degree. Hardware engineers may work in manufacturing, research or design. Those who work in this field should have strong analytical skills and the ability to come up with solutions to problems in design or performance. They need strong computer skills and should be experienced using computer design software, analytical software and operating software such as Linux.

Job responsibilities of a hardware engineer include:

  • Constructing prototypes
  • Evaluating prototype performance
  • Altering design specifications to improve performance
  • Testing networks and routers

Electrical Engineers

When people turn on electrical equipment in their homes they are benefiting from the work of electrical engineers. These professionals are involved with creating and improving equipment that operates on electricity and also equipment that's used to produce electricity. It's common for electrical engineers to be employed by manufacturing companies; other electrical engineers spend their careers focusing on power production or research. It's possible to pursue entry-level work with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, but those who are interested in advancing to roles in management will need to obtain their Professional Engineer (PE) license, as well. While electrical engineers typically work in an office, they may also travel to perform tasks such as overseeing the installation of equipment.

Job responsibilities of an electrical engineer include:

  • Using computer design software to produce product specifications
  • Determining how to improve product performance
  • Assessing data related to product performance
  • Looking into customer complaints

Related Careers

Individuals considering a career as a hardware engineer may also be interested in using the link here to explore what computer analysts do, since they concentrate on upgrading computer networks. Those thinking about becoming electrical engineers may want to check out the link below to explore how the work of electrical engineers compares to the work of electronic engineers.

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